Dani Does the Democratic ProcessBeing a good Canadian (and an unemployed one) I signed up to help with the election yesterday. Okay, let's be honest. My Dad told me there was substantial money involved. There isn't--allow me to dispell that rumor right here and now. It works out to about $4/hr. But I signed up anyway and it turned out to be very interesting. I thought I'd share a few of the highlights.
Training Day, five days before Election Day:
This is where they tell you that if anything goes awry with your station, you forfeit your check. (Whoopee.) Then they tell you how complicated the procedures are, "But everything is in the manual. Read your manual before polling day, and you'll be fine." I didn't get a manual.
Fortunately both Mom and Dad had signed up for this gig, so they had two. I got one of theirs and managed to study up by Sunday night, so I'd know what to do in case of a bomb threat, and how to swear out a warrant for someone's arrest, should a voter become heated over whether or not the tin of cookies was for everyone, or just the people in his polling area.
The night before:
The manual stated we should arrive 45 minutes ahead of time to ensure everything was set up properly. It also stated the new hours for polling. It used to be 9-9. Now, because the western provinces always feel their results are not making a difference in the results, we vote earlier, 7-7. That'd be a 6:15 start for me, then. (And no, I no longer get up at 5 to write. I take the kids to school and write during the day, like normal humans. This early morning start was an ugly complication I hadn't forseen. Wait, it get's uglier.)
I set my alarm for 5:30 and got ready for bed early, with the kids. Then I dropped by my daughter's room for tucking in. She promptly fell apart as 10 yr old girls are wont to do. Oh, the drama of growing up. An hour later, and many tears, I went to bed, mind agonizing over my lousy parenting--did I mention PMS was coming on? After tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep only to have the son pop by for a visit at 2. He'd had a nightmare. Normally I would just crawl into bed with him and be done with it, but now I was worried about missing the alarm.
Wide, wide awake at 2:30, when the son finally nodded off, I got back to my own bed and stared at the ceiling until ten minutes before the alarm went off. Therefore, I looked and felt my very best for polling day.
Fortunately, I was in a room with several pros. There was only one other newbie, and that was my partner, Tom. I'm sure you can guess who got the longest list of electors? Yup, that was us.
Our first customer was the voter who had just moved into the area and didn't have any I.D. Did you know that if you don't want to Swear To God, you may Solemnly Affirm? I didn't, but I do now. Anyway, there was a whole bunch of swearing, right off the starting block, but after that, Tom and I got the hang of things and muddled through a steady day.
Between times, there was plenty of snacking on all the goodies everyone had brought. Did you know Pringles now makes a chip with trivia printed on it? In Canada, they alternate in French and English. That's some trivia for my American friends.
Anyway, we didn't lack for conversation when things slowed down. Of course, if you know me, you know I rarely do. At one point, I said to Tom, "To be honest, my husband and I are a little bit anti-social." His reply? "I doubt it."
Finally we were done and closed the polls. This is when you begin all the counting procedures, by hand. I compare my records to Tom's and if they match, happy day, report the results, go home and have a drink.
It was a few hours before I got that drink. The other polls closed and packaged and left without incident. We got to hang around, with the runners waiting on us, the janitor vacuuming, while we figured out where we'd gone wrong. Fortunately, the manual was there for us. "These figures must balance. Count again."
It turned out to be a minor oversight. An unused ballot had inadvertently been left in one book. We all went, "Ahhh!" Then we sealed and stamped and signed and then, finally, I went home and had a drink. (Vodka & grapefruit juice)
So it was a long day, but an eventful one. I learned that only about 60% of people vote, that Elections Canada employs about 60,000 people on the day of voting, and that the voting process in Canada is full of checks and balances that might keep you there late, but they're there for a reason.
There is very little room for error in our election process, even less for monkey business. You might not like the results of the election, but speaking as someone who has participated in the process, I can say I am confident that the guy who got elected was elected fairly and democratically. For that peace of mind, I would have volunteered.
Which I may have. Cross your fingers I see a check....